New York-born Pat Trivigno painted in multiple styles, but his signature work is marked by flowing forms and jewel-rich colors. He painted this oil and acrylic tryptich, "Dancers of Delphi #2" in 1986. Learn more »
During his forty-three-year tenure as a professor of painting and drawing at the Newcomb College Art School at Tulane University in New Orleans, Pat Trivigno left an enduring legacy as a teacher and mentor to a generation of emerging artists. As a professional artist and a supportive and sensitive teacher, Trivigno guided and influenced his students, many of whom garnered regional and national acclaim. They include Ida Kohlmeyer, Lynda Benglis, Emery Clark, Jacqueline Bishop, Mignon Faget, and William Crutchfield.
Upbringing and Art Education
The only son of immigrants from Naples, Italy, Trivigno was born in 1922 and grew up in New York. At an early age, he began studying the violin and practicing drawing. His parents recognized his abilities and sent him to the Leonardo da Vinci Art School in New York. He furthered his education by taking classes at the Art Students League, and he won the Wanamaker School Art League Medal for excellence in drawing.
In 1936 Trivigno was accepted to the High School of Music and Art, which provided a strenuous four-year program combining traditional academic classes with fine art and music classes. It was there that Trivigno met Helen Kohl, a fellow student two years his junior who he later married. Kohl’s family had immigrated to New York from Bucharest, Romania, when she was a child. As first-generation immigrants who had a passion for art, the young couple found kindred spirits in each other. New York Mayor Fiorello La Guardia, who was a supporter of the High School of Music and Art, selected several of Trivigno’s student paintings to hang his office.
Trivigno continued his studies by attending—on full scholarship—Tyler Art School at Temple University in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, for a year and later the University of Iowa in Iowa City. There he studied with prominent American artists Grant Wood and Philip Guston. Trivigno returned to New York and earned his bachelor of arts degree from Columbia University. Trivigno remarked, “New York was a wonderfully supportive, nurturing place to grow up for one interested in the arts. I never thought about how I was going to make a living as an artist. I figured I’d manage somehow.”
Kohl also studied at the University of Iowa in Iowa City for a year. In 1941 she returned to New York, where she enrolled in classes at Columbia University. At New York University, she took studio art and education classes. She graduated with a bachelor of arts degree in 1943.
World War II intervened, and from 1943 to 1945, Trivigno served in the US Army 13th Armored Division under General Patton in France and Germany. Having been sent to the University of California at Berkeley for the Russian Language Program, Trivigno performed liaison work with the Russians during the German Occupation. While still in the service, Trivigno married Kohl in 1944.
After the war, the couple resided in New York, and Trivigno returned to Columbia University to earn his master’s degree. While he was in graduate school, the university hired him as an assistant instructor of painting and drawing. Helen taught art classes at various schools and worked as an art therapist.
A Career as Artist and Teacher
In 1947 Trivigno was hired for a one-year appointment at Newcomb College School of Art to teach a class in drawing and layout design. The couple took up residence in a boarding house on Pine Street in Uptown New Orleans; they had no intention of remaining in the South for long. Trivigno’s natural aptitude for teaching became apparent, his contract was renewed, and he eventually became a tenured professor at Newcomb College. The couple settled into New Orleans and raised a family. Helen was hired by Metairie Park Country Day School, where she taught art for twenty-seven years, retiring in 1974. She became known for her colorful enamel art.
Trivigno maintained ties with the New York art community; in 1951 he had his first solo show at Lubyer Gallery and was invited to participate in the Whitney Museum of Art’s annual contemporary art exhibition. During his career, he exhibited in New York with the Frank Rehn Gallery, Salpeter Gallery, Jacques Seligmann Gallery, Rose Fried Gallery, and Guggenheim Museum. Trivigno taught by example and had a productive career as an artist, exhibiting nationally with the Chicago Art Institute and locally with the New Orleans Art Association. In 1952 he won first prize at the Art Association of New Orleans annual exhibition, and his painting Seedseller was purchased by the Isaac Delgado Museum of Art (today, the New Orleans Museum of Art, or NOMA).
As a teacher, Trivigno garnered the respect and admiration of a generation of students. His quiet, sensitive, thought-provoking style of instruction inspired and encouraged his students. Artist Ida Kohlmeyer said of Trivigno, “I was inspired by him from the moment I entered his class. There was something about the way he taught that passed on the magic to his students. He has a deep, deep spiritual understanding of art.”
When assigned with the task of arranging a visiting artist for Newcomb art school in 1957, Trivigno selected Mark Rothko. The two artists shared an interest in music and the works of Mozart, specifically. Rothko was born in Russia and Trivigno had studied Russian while in the army. Although Rothko was only at Newcomb for a month, the two artists forged an enduring friendship.
Helen died in 1985 from a long and debilitating bout with cancer. After forty-three years of teaching, Tulane University awarded Trivigno the Mortarboard Award from Excellence in Teaching, and he retired. He married artist Eva LaMothe in 1986 and devoted himself full-time to painting. In 2003 he completed a ninety-foot colorful mural of basketball players and athletes for the New Orleans Arena.
Trevigno died January 30, 2013, in New Orleans.
Cite This Entry
Chicago Manual of Style
Kheel, Claudia. "Pat Trivigno." In KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana, edited by David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2010–. Article published September 12, 2012. http://www.knowla.org/entry/1132/.
Kheel, Claudia. "Pat Trivigno." KnowLA Encyclopedia of Louisiana. Ed. David Johnson. Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 12 Sept 2012. Web. 18 Jan. 2017.
Would you like to learn more about this topic from books and other reading materials?
Sartisky, Michael, J. Richard Gruber, and John R. Kemp, eds. A Unique Slant of Light: The Bicentennial History of the Art in Louisiana. New Orleans: Louisiana Endowment for the Humanities, 2012.
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